FPIO releases Policy Memorandum on Why Strong Families Still Matter

Timothy Tardibono - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma released its first Policy Memorandum titled “Why Strong Families Still Matter”. 

Noting that despite Oklahoma’s reputation as a family-friendly, faith-based state, Oklahoma’s social indicators show that its children and families are in distress.  Oklahoma’s rates of child abuse and neglect, childhood poverty, educational success, teen sexual behavior, and youth substance abuse paint a sobering picture of the challenging climate Oklahoma’s children face.  The FPIO Policy Memo notes that despite these negative social indicators, research reveals a common denominator which signals an advantage for children: children raised by their biological, married father and mother exhibit the greatest opportunity for success, safety and well-being than children in all other family structures. 

The report cited major studies which found that:

  • Children living with their married biological parents universally had the lowest rate of maltreatment, whereas those living with a single parent who had a cohabiting partner in the household had the highest rate in all maltreatment categories, including child abuse and neglect.

  • Children in a married family are considerably more likely to avoid poverty than if they are in a single-parent family or other family structures.

  • Children living with their married parents are significantly more likely to stay in school, have higher levels of academic achievement, and graduate than those from any other kind of family structure.

  • Teens living with their biological father and mother had the lowest rate of sexual activity than their peers in other family settings.

  • The lowest prevalence of being drunk, use of marijuana and other illicit drugs is reported by adolescents who live in mother-father families. 

Bearing this positive common denominator in mind, the FPIO Policy Memo calls on faith, community and policy leaders focused on strengthening communities to consider how efforts to improve marital stability factor into their community development efforts. 

The Policy Memo references the abundance of data that shows that couples can learn how to improve their positive communication skills, their support and helping roles, and the overall quality of their marriage.  Such marriage education efforts should be utilized and expanded to help reduce the incidence of unnecessary divorce and family breakdown in communities across the Oklahoma.

The Policy Memo makes the following recommendations: 

  • The Oklahoma Legislature can do its part to assist by seriously considering policies that slow down the fast-pace of unilateral divorce, encourage more premarital education, financially encourage long-term marriage, and increase the opportunity for reconciliation. 

  • Additionally, faith and community leaders can chip in by expanding efforts to encourage young people as to the benefits of marriage, to take advantage of opportunities to participate in premarital assessments and training, to not rush to the altar before being ready, and to then keep their marriage vows for the long run. 

The Policy Memo concludes by noting a trend in the research that seems to not be a focus of community development initiatives.  Oklahoma policy makers and community leaders should take special note of the data presented here that demonstrates that cohabitation has the most detrimental impact on a child’s opportunity for success and consider what solutions can be developed to lower the incidence of cohabitation.

To read the full paper, click here.